Authors Timothy Lane and Paul Tripp ask this question in their book “Relationships: A Mess Worth Making.” Most of us have asked the same questions of some relationship at one time or another. Usually, it’s during a time of stress, feeling misunderstood, or feeling taken advantage of. Every relationship goes through times of stress. Even the best of friends have times when they are out of sync. Marriages go through ups and downs. Working relationships can be motivating or they can steal our energy. Every relationship has the potential to bring great happiness or frustration.
Lane and Tripp write, “We all live in two worlds in some way. Some of our deepest joys and most painful hurts have been in relationships. There are times when we wish we could live alone and other times when we are glad we don’t.”
Why the Roller Coaster in Relationships?
Sin messes with everything. As much as we want to believe the best about ourselves and others, there is the constant awareness of something not right—in ourselves but also in others. Things like jealousy, anger, frustration, depression, expectations, and more work their way into our relationships making life messy.
On the other hand, grace also enters into our relationships. Grace is that ability to express goodwill, courtesy, decency, and forgiveness towards others. It may not even be deserved, but we give and receive it anyway.
On the sin side, there is always the danger that we will make relationships a means to an end. When God created the world the purpose of relationship was side-by-side help, family, and loving companionship. Adam and Eve enjoyed the harmony of relationship with God and each other. Sin turned that relational harmony inward. Self-interest took center stage in relationships. “What can I get or am getting?” becomes an issue in our relationships. As much as we would like to say, “That’s not true!”, we all know that there are times when selfishness rears its ugliness in our lives.
An Opportunity to Embrace
Grace is the proper response to sin. Sin turns us inward. Sin demands that the flesh be appeased. Sin demands that other people bow to our desires and wishes. Grace—that amazing ability to show goodwill, courtesy, love, decency, and forgiveness—turns our hearts toward relationship instead of away from relationship.
God created you for relationship, first and foremost with Him. To experience a relationship with God we must embrace his Grace. Grace is a God action! Grace is God choosing to forgive us and bless us! Read about God’s grace in Ephesians.
Ephesians 2:3–10 (NIV)
3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and
thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For
it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
- How many times does the word grace appear in this passage?
- What are the characteristics of grace according to Paul here?
- How does God’s grace appear in our lives? (see 7)
- What do we do or not do to get God’s gift of grace? (see 8)
Receiving Grace, Giving Grace
Jesus redeems our relationship with God and shows us a better path for every other relationship in life. Learning how to show other people God’s grace is challenging, but it is a challenge worth accepting. It doesn’t mean letting people walk all over you. In fact, grace lives in the land of truth. Sometimes the most charitable thing we can do is to lovingly let
people know that we love them and that their behavior is unbecoming. At the same time, we need to deal with our unbecoming behavior also. Lane and Tripp write, “The health and maturity of a relationship is not measured by an absence
of problems, but the way inevitable problems are handled. From birth to death, we are sinners living with other sinners. A good relationship involves honestly identifying the sin patterns that tend to trouble it. It also involves being humble and willing to guard yourself and the other person from these sin patterns.”
So why bother with relationships, especially when they are messy?
God doesn’t run away from you when you are being difficult or even offensive. He isn’t so offended by your behavior that he “writes you off.” Instead, he pursues you. He sends Jesus to your side. He gives himself to you in the person of Jesus. What a beautiful example? What a beautiful story of grace and love?
What will your story be toward others?
Qoutes take from: Lane, T. and Tripp, P. (2006). Relationships. Greensboro, NC: New Growth Press.